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The Talent

Carol Nissenson | Cait Maloney

“We’re NOT going to produce your friend’s new musical adaptation of Foucault’s Pendulum, Brian.

“We’re doing Rapunzel. It’s my money. We’re doing Rapunzel.” Nan waved a copy of the script. “No royalties, a four person cast, family friendly, great for school groups…”

“Over my dead body.”

“Do you want to be buried or cremated?”

In the early days all the auditions were held at Nan’s house. It was easy to get to, there was plenty of parking and it didn’t cost them anything. Nan was ok with that until a middle-aged man with an obvious toupee, treated them to an original song about how he enjoyed killing ants. The same night a very nervous, anorexic girl performed a monologue that she ended by screaming ‘Fuck you, you bastard’ four times and smashing an ashtray into the fireplace. At least, it was her ashtray.

Brian insisted that it was ‘an anomaly.’

“Well, the next ‘anomaly’ is going to be at your apartment, Bri.”

So, here they were at ‘Rhythm Makers,’ a small warehouse in the middle of a lot of large warehouses. You could drive by it a hundred times and never know it was there. If you managed to find it, your first thought would be ‘this theatre company must really suck.’

Soundproofing was almost nonexistent. As they set up a wobbly table with cold metal chairs, they could hear the sound of a Go-Go band rehearsing next door.

Jumping music, swift D.J.’s
Smoke machines and laser rays
Look out weekend ‘cause, here I come
Because were werrrre…

The room was maybe 10’ x 12,’ which would put the singers more or less on top of Nan and Brian. Too bad rehearsal studios didn’t come with a moat.

Mitch walked in. He went straight to the ancient upright piano and played a chord…or attempted to. He lifted the lid. “What the hell is this supposed to be? This thing has no guts.

“I had a feeling about this, Nan. My keyboard’s in the trunk. I’d make Brian bring it in, but he’d drop it.”

The Word (God, how Nan hated that name. It made them sound like Jehovah’s Witnesses or a bad rap group) had run through three accompanists in seven years. After this fiasco Mitch was going to be the fourth, for sure. They’d be lucky to get an 8th grader with a ukulele next time.

Kia sat in the hall with a signup sheet, numbered 1-20. Only nine people had called for an audition. The other eleven lines were there for walk-ins, and to make it look like actors were just dying to join the troupe.

When Nan was acting in New York any company that could afford to place an ad in Backstage could get two hundred people to sign up for an audition, even if they were looking for someone to play a dancing turnip.

“So who have we got tonight,” Mitch asked, without a scintilla of optimism.

Kia put the photos and resumes on the table. “There’s one boy who looks good, a couple of women who obviously don’t know the meaning of ‘ingenue,’ and one cute young blond. Can’t tell about the others. Some guy who says his name is Dimitri left a message in the voicemail. He said he’d bring his stuff with him. I can’t tell about the others.” She went back out to wait for the ‘talent.’

Nan sifted through the photos and passed them to Mitch. “Ah, another batch of community theatre stars. You’re big on undiscovered talent, aren’t you Brian?”

A large woman in a cowboy hat and fringed jacket walked in. She handed her music to Mitch.

“I’m Elva Gregory and I’m going to sing ‘You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun.’” Mitch mouthed to Brian I hope she doesn’t have one.

Her resume listed ‘Civil War reenactor’ and ‘Mrs. MacAfee’ in The Beltway Players 1998 production of ‘Bye Bye, Birdie.’

“Thanks, Elva. We’ll let you know if we’re calling you back.”

The three of them did a group silent scream after Elva walked out.

Kia ushered in the next victim, a very pretty, very blond, very large-breasted girl of about 23.

“I’m Kiki Winters and my song is ‘Ten Minutes Ago’ from Cinderella.”

Nan was thrilled…until Kiki started singing…about a quartertone below the actual melody. Nan had never heard anyone do that for an entire song.

The next auditionee weighed at least three hundred pounds and had severe asthma.

“I’m going to sing….Wheeze… ‘I’m getting…Wheeze…Married… Wheeze in the Morning.’

After sixteen bars he squatted a little and stuck one foot out. Oh, my God, stop him! He’s going to dance.

“Thanks, Brendon. We’ll let you know.” Nan was afraid the man was going to collapse. She could see the ambulance taking him away to the sounds of a Chuck Brown wannabee singing Bustin’ Loose. It would be great publicity, though.

Then it happened. A bona fide, potential prince walked in the door. He had a huge smile and sparkling teeth, a gymnast’s body and that kind of easy style you don’t see much in auditions.

“What are you going to sing for us, Jaime?”

Please let it not be anything from Rent, please let it not be anything from Rent.

‘Almost Like Being in Love,’ from Brigadoon.


Dmitri No-Last-Name hadn’t shown up, so they started making the oh-so-short callback list. Brian immediately put KiKi’s photo into the ‘yes’ pile.

“But she can’t sing.”

“I thought she sounded ok.”

Nan marked the upper left corner of the resume with ‘CWP’ (Casting With Penis).

“Wasn’t Prince Charming great, though? Thank god for that.”

Brian moved the photo to the ‘no’ pile “There’s something about him I don’t like. It’s like he’s overconfident…too self-centered or something. I don’t think he’ll be a team player.”

Mitch walked over to the table and stared down at Brian. “I don’t care if he’s a one man show,” and Prince Charming got a place on the ‘yes’ pile. That made two callbacks.

The door opened a crack and Kia stuck her head in. “Ummmm, ‘Dmitri’ is here.”

A 5’4”, thirty-something guy with a dyed-blond Mohawk and bad teeth came in. He put his resume (he didn’t have a headshot) on the table. His credits included ‘shoe model’ and Warrenton High School chorus. Actually, those were his only credits. He hadn’t prepared a song, because he didn’t realize he was supposed to sing.

“I could thing thomething by Madonna.”

Nan visualized a Rapunzel with pointy cone breasts.

“OK, which one would you like to sing for us?”

“Expreth Yourthelph.”

Mitch let him get through sixteen bars, which ‘Dmitri’ performed with the original choreography.

After he left, Nan immediately went for the resume. Mitch opened the lid of the piano and Nan crumpled the resume and was about to make a three pointer when Brian grabbed it.

“I think he has potential. We don’t have a single Asian in the company. Let’s call him back and see how well he acts. He has some good skills. Look. It says he can do a Cambodian dialect.”

“That’s because he’s Cambodian, Bri.” Nan put the resume on top of the ‘no’ pile.

About Carol Nissenson

Carol is a professional actor and directs and performs with her own theatre troupe, for which she's coauthored over a dozen mysteries and led over one hundred storytelling workshops.

Visit the author's page >

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